Four qualities to look for when interviewing a product manager

Edited excerpt from This Is Why I Never Hire Product Managers by David Cancel:

I try to never hire someone who has been a product manager before. I’ve never seen a correlation with past experience and future success when it comes to product managers. Instead, there are a set of patterns we look for when hiring product managers:

1. Are they truly a product junkie? Are they the first to be playing around with new products? Are they telling me about some product I don’t know about? Do they know about more products than me? And do they have passion around this? I love to have candidates show me their phone or desktop to see which apps they are using, which new products they are testing.

2. Are they curious? Are they settling for yes or questioning why? Do they want to learn from others? What ideas do they have for products? How would they make them better? Pick a product on the spot and ask them to show you how they use it, what they’d change and how they would improve it.

3. How do they work everyday? What do they use from a process standpoint? Trello? Evernote? ProdPad? The best PM’s are always trying new things and finding ways to improve when it comes to process and organization.

4. Do they have a customer-driven mindset? It’s the PMs job to understand the customer better than nearly everyone else. PMs should be talking to the customer the most at your company other than support. Can they help engineering and design get closer to the customer?

Two things don’t matter: Technical ability, and dashboards, slide decks and Excel. Looking at data all day is not what being a PM is about.

Notes:
(1) Cf. The ideal personality type for product managers.
(2) Re. “I’ve never seen a correlation with past experience and future success”: cf. Don’t hire based on past experience.
(3) Re. “Are they curious?”: cf. How to test job candidates for “learning agility”.
(4) Re. “Do they have a customer-driven mindset?”: do they focus on the Job To Be Done?
(5) Re. “Dashboards don’t matter… looking at data all day is not what being a PM is about”: Do you agree with that?

One thought on “Four qualities to look for when interviewing a product manager

  1. “Re. “Dashboards don’t matter… looking at data all day is not what being a PM is about”: Do you agree with that?”

    PMs need to be data driven and keep a close eye on their short and long term KPIs. However, data mining can easily become a rabbits hole and PMs who are naturally curious can end up spending tons of time exploring the data around their product. Data analysts who specialize in this area can get much more bang for the buck. A PM’s time can be much better spent on reaching directly out to users and continuously developing the product.

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